HomeHHMI's BioInteractivePedigrees and the Inheritance of Lactose Intolerance


Free Resources for Science Education

Classroom Resource
Pedigrees and the Inheritance of Lactose Intolerance


Students explore the genetic changes associated with lactose tolerance/intolerance and how the trait is inherited in families.

In this classroom activity, students analyze the same Finnish family pedigrees that researchers studied to understand the pattern of inheritance of lactose tolerance/intolerance. They also examine portions of DNA sequence near the lactase gene to identify specific mutations associated with lactose tolerance. The activity is intended for regular and honors high school biology.

Curriculum Connections:

NGSS (April 2013)
HS-LS3-1, HS-LS2.A, HS-LS3.A

Common Core (2010)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.4

AP Biology (2012-13)
3.A.3, 3.B.1, 3.C.1, 4.A.1, LO 3.14, LO 3.18, LO 3.19

IB Biology (2009)
3.3, 4.1, 4.3

Supporting Materials (6)

Classroom Resource
Students explore the effects of different diets on the evolution of an enzyme that breaks down starch.
Classroom Resource
Students evaluate and discuss several statements about lactose intolerance and evolution before and after watching the film.
Classroom Resource
Students simulate a lactose tolerance test.
Classroom Resource
Students interpret the results of two different tests for lactase persistence.
Short Film
Follow human geneticist Spencer Wells, Director of the Genographic Project of the National Geographic Society, as he tracks down the genetic changes associated with the ability to digest lactose as adults, tracing the origin of the trait to less than 10,000 years ago, a time when some human populations started domesticating animals.
Film Guides
The following classroom-ready resources complement Got Lactase? The Co-evolution of Genes and Culture, which tells the story of the evolution of the ability to digest lactose, a genetic trait that arose in humans within the last 10,000 years in some pastoralist cultures.

Download this item